Social media provides constant access to the world’s largest “focus group,” and social listening can help turn the millions of daily patient and caregiver health-related posts into valuable marketing data points. When done right, social listening can provide key inputs around which marketers can develop winning strategies. Let’s look at some examples:


Understanding patients’ unmet needs can provide an advantage in the early stages of defining messaging and launch strategy. For one pharmaceutical company, insights gleaned from social listening helped them identify secondary endpoints while in clinical trial, which aided them in expediting the drug’s approval process and provided a key touch point around which to focus their launch communications.

Advertising Launch

When spending big on DTC, campaigns need to hit home. In one case, the planned soft message of “feeling refreshed in the morning” for a bladder condition would have fallen flat. Through social listening, the team discovered the real pain point: Patients were so sleep deprived that “feeling refreshed” was an utterly foreign concept to them. So the company changed its DTC messaging strategy to simply getting a good night’s sleep.

Understanding Switching Behavior

A top-five pharmaceutical company wanted to understand why—in spite of calling their drug a “miracle cure”—patients were stopping its oncology treatment before completion. Social listening helped validate what several sales reps had already reported (but were doubted): HCPs were ending therapy because it raised their patients’ blood platelet count far too high, a direct result of starting on too high a dose. The company changed its HCP dosing instructions to better meet patient needs and bolster the drug’s market share.

Identifying Patient Influencers

It’s not always about the patient. Interacting with patient influencers can help shape healthcare conversations around brands. Social listening can pinpoint the key players, how often they post, in which forums and their overall sentiment. This information was crucial for one pharmaceutical marketing team to ensure that the right people were being invited to its patient blogger summit.

Early Warning of Adverse Events

Social media can be mined for important early indicators about patient concerns. While each individual mention may not indicate a trend or even a real side effect, when the dots are connected, an important picture can emerge. A colleague wrote this blog post ( about how the relationship between ADHD medication and priapism was clearly indicated in social media long before the FDA warning came out. Pharmaceutical executives may be hesitant to monitor potential adverse events in social media for many reasons; however, some of today’s social listening solutions have built-in adverse event reporting, which helps companies stay compliant.

Go Beyond the Buzz

Monitoring buzz and “hits” for your brand name is just one way to use social listening—and a valuable one for tracking the impact of certain types of campaigns. But social listening can do so much more, helping pharmaceutical marketers gain concrete inputs into strategic and tactical marketing decisions to aid across the full scope of their responsibilities.

  • Christine Petersen

    Christine Petersen is Chief Consumer Officer and CMO at Treato, a leading source of real health insights from millions of real health consumers. Christine leads Treato’s global marketing initiatives and oversees development and growth of the company’s consumer health business.


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